Although “Lysistrata” is set in 411 BCE Athens, don’t be surprised to find Starbucks cups and erect balloon penises in Dr. Meghan Brodie’s contemporary take on Aristophanes’ ancient Greek sex comedy, starting Feb 22 at the Lenfest Theatre.
Following “Hair” and “Once Removed,” the Theater and Dance department continue with their 2017/18 theme of resistance by putting on a rendition of Lysistrata, according to the Ursinus website.
Dr. Meghan Brodie, assistant professor of theatre, is directing the modern take on the Greek play.
In “Lysistrata,” the women of Athens and Sparta participate in a sex strike to protest the Peloponnesian War that has gripped both cities. Skye Gailing ’18 explains that the play is about women who come together to end a war: Having spent their lives subordinated by men, they reclaim their sexuality by using it as a battle strategy, taking matters into their own hands.
“‘Lysistrata emphasizes the role of women leading the domestic sphere, yet the women, unlike men, take their roles seriously,” said Gailing.
This version of “Lysistrata,” which was adapted by Ellen McLachlan from the original play by Aristophanes, takes place in ancient Athens with a modern twist.
A storefront reads “Sapphora” as a modern-day reference to the make-up chain Sephora; Gailing’s character Lampito, queen of Sparta, does her Spartan workout on a yoga mat.
Brodie embraced McLaughlin’s fondness for anachronism by incorporating 2010s pop cultural references into the production.
The professional design team added contemporary components to the scenic, lighting, costume and sound designs, Brodie explained.
Senior Mya Drew-Flood plays one of the Athenian chorus leaders. Flood said the audience should keep in mind that “This play has a very modern feel to it and it doesn’t take itself too seriously when it comes to historical[ly] correct references.”
The feminist and anti-war themes present in “Lysistrata” are more than relevant in today’s political climate:
“The story’s plotline reminds me of the #TimesUp movement: calling out the patriarchal system out in place and saying that enough is enough,” Flood said.
The play features first-year student Bella Ragomo, winner of the Ursinus Theatre Program Scholarship, as the titular character Lysistrata—an Athenian woman who has grown tired of the war and the mistreatment of women. Lysistrata proposes a sex-strike and coordinates an occupation of the Acropolis so men cannot access the resources they need to wage war, Brodie explained.
“Although women’s political strategies have changed quite a bit over the centuries, the play remains a timely story about women who strive to make their experiences known and their voices heard,” Brodie said.
Brodie interprets McLaughlin’s adaptation of Lysistrata as a celebration of both men’s and women’s enjoyment of consensual sex.
“McLaughlin has omitted the couple of references to rape found in Aristophanes’ original text; in [McLaughlin’s] version, the men complain about the women’s strategy of withholding sex and occupying the Acropolis to end the war, but they don’t force themselves on the women,” Brodie explained.
In standing up to Christian Eigan’s character, the Magistrate, Lysistrata protests the face of the Grecian patriarchy, according to Gailing.
“Similar to the marches of today, effective collective action occurs in this show and demonstrates how populations pushed to the margins of their society can come together in powerful ways to create positive change in their situation,” Gailing elaborated.
Flood echoed that “Lysistrata” highlights the importance of ownership of one’s sexuality:
“The ownership of one’s sexuality is important and empowering. Power comes from that place and channeling it is what the women of the play work with,” Flood said.
“It’s our bodies and our choice of what we wear, who we have sex with and it’s more powerful than any war or any man telling us to stay in our place.”
“Lysistrata” will be performed at the Lenfest Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Other showtimes will include Friday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
The last show will be performed on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $8 for general admission. Tickets can be bought in advance at ursinus.edu/tickets or on the day of the performance (cash-only).
With additional reporting by Naseem Syed.